|ARTIST:||Charles Frederick Goldie|
|DATES:||New Zealand 1870 - 1947|
|TITLE:||Thoughts of a Tohunga: Wharekauri Tahuna, Tuhoe Tribe|
|MEDIUM:||Oil on canvas|
|SIZE:||27.5 x 22.3 cm|
Signed & dated 1939 upper left
Illustrated: A Taylor C F Goldie: His Life and Paintings at 288
Provenance: John Leech Gallery, May 1948 (original inscribed label attached verso).
Charles Frederick GOLDIE
Auckland 1870 – 1947
Thoughts of a Tohunga: Wharekauri Tahuna, Tuhoe Tribe
Charles Frederick Goldie is probably New Zealand's best-known artist. Encouraged by his art teacher Louis John Steele and also by Sir George Grey, at the age of 22 Goldie ventured overseas to undertake four years of rigorous training at the cosmopolitan Académie Julian in Paris, where he won many prizes. His professional career began in earnest upon his return to Auckland, beginning with a portrait exhibition at the Auckland Society of Arts in 1900.
Goldie’s main area of artistic focus was the depiction of elderly Māori with moko, the “noble relics of a noble race”, immaculately rendered on canvases prepared with a textured ground. Goldie's models usually sat for him in his Auckland studio, draped in a cloak or blanket. In return they received a daily stipend, and for a model from out of town, accommodation costs.
In the 1930s Goldie sent much of his work overseas to the major academies. His successes, duly reported in the local press, included the award of King George V's Silver Jubilee Medal and an OBE in 1935.
Although hundreds of his works are held in private collections, many of Goldie's more important paintings are owned by New Zealand museums. The artist himself retained a large collection of his early work, motivated by the commonly held belief at the time that the Māori race was one headed for extinction.
Te Wharekauri Tahuna, Ngati Manawa, Tuhoe tribe, was a tohunga (priest) from the Galatea settlement near Murupara. He appeared in several portraits by Goldie that were completed from 1910 onwards, examples of which are held in the Auckland Art Gallery and Te Papa Tongarewa collections. A portrait of Wharekauri won Goldie an Honorable Mention at the Paris Salon in 1935. That painting, also titled Thoughts of a Tohunga, was mentioned in the New Zealand Magazine of 1941 as “a revelation to the art world in Paris and London”.
The present painting is strongly lit from the left and presents Wharekauri’s features in shadowy profile, with the light illuminating his moko. The tactile grooves of the moko allow us to veritably feel the chisel indentations, an illusion deftly conveyed by Goldie’s brush. Wharekauri’s wispy hair and beard, the polished surfaces of the greenstone and the varied textures of the cloak likewise contribute to the rich visual interest of this work which encapsulates everything one would expect in a quintessential ‘Goldie’.
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